Did you know that kidney failure causes anemia? We did not know. My husband was having symptoms that we assumed were part of being in late stage kidney failure, but we had no idea it was a direct result of renal disease causing anemia. We learned that kidneys produce an important hormone called epo (erythropoietin) when the body senses that oxygen in the blood is low. This epo hormone tells the bone marrow to make more red blood cells to transport more oxygen to the body, but when kidneys are not working there is no epo to regulate this process anymore. Interesting right? Kidneys also filter toxins from the blood but for my husband with barely any function left, the red blood cells are not as strong and there are not enough of them as there should be.
Here are a list of common symptoms of anemia.
- feeling weak, tired and fatigued
- feeling cold, especially fingers and toes
- shortness of breath, easily winded
- feeling dizzy and/or faint
- rapid heartbeat or irregular heartbeat
- pale skin, loss of color in skin
- dry itchy skin
For now my husband is on prescribed iron pills as a supplement to manage the iron loss. Due to kidney failure causing too much protein, he is supposed to stay away from iron rich meats. Being a vegetarian I know that he has other options that are lower in protein such as peas, prune juice and dark leafy veggies. The doctor did say that eventually my husband will be receiving injections that will tell his bone marrow to make the red blood cells again. It will be nice for my husband to feel good when he gets his energy back and stop shivering in the sun.
The National Kidney Foundation has been a great resource for me through the process of my husbands kidney failure. Here is a link to a brochure that helps explain in more detail, the stages of kidney failure and how they affect anemia.